UCLA Coach Jim Mora will go from Eugene, Ore., to Seattle after Saturday’s game to attend a memorial service for Washington Coach Don James.
James died at his home from the effects of pancreatic cancer on Sunday. He was 80.
Mora, who was a walk-on defensive back under James from 1980 to '83, said, “I learned so much from him, playing for him, that I have applied to my coaching career.”
Mora knew James, “since I was 5 years old.” James’ oldest daughter would babysit him. When Mora was older, he would babysit James’ younger daughter.
As a player, Mora absorbed coaching lessons. He was part of two Washington teams that went to the Rose Bowl, in the 1981 and 1982 games. The Huskies beat Iowa, 28-0, in 1982.
It was one of four Rose Bowl victories for James. Only USC coaches Howard Jones and John McKay have more, with five each.
“If a team meeting started at 3 p.m., he knew it took 32 seconds to get from his desk to the podium,” Mora said. “He would hit it right at the second every single time. He was a man of great discipline, great integrity and he always told it like it was.”
Mora mostly remembers pregame and halftime speeches by James.
“There was a Thursday afternoon talk before UCLA,” Mora said. “It was one of the great speeches I ever heard. The way he could inspire you. The guy could set his jaw and will a way to victory.”
Mora expects a large turnout of former players at the memorial service.
“He never put himself above anybody,” Mora said. “He was so well respected in the community and by his players. There are so many Don James stories. We’ll all come together Sunday and it’s going to be a heck of a celebration for a guy who touched a whole lot of us.”